The most shocking ad yet against drinking and driving?

21 Dec

Here’s a standard advertising message: drive drunk and you will go to jail.

Here’s a South African ad agency taking that message up a notch with this chilling new ad:


Can sexual violence be used as a deterrent? What does that do to us to wave it around in this off-hand manner? Is jail-rape less offensive than drinking and driving?

I’m all for shock tactics. But this one just left me wondering when violence of this nature became worthy of a smirk to deter lesser crimes.


8 Responses to “The most shocking ad yet against drinking and driving?”

  1. Shane December 21, 2010 at 9:51 am #

    It’s an impactful ad but you could put any message about illegal behaviour at the end. For me, that makes it less well-crafted.

  2. dougbrowncreative December 21, 2010 at 9:54 am #

    Great point. There is nothing intrinsic to drinking and driving in this ad. It’s more like Scary Santa: “You better be good….”

  3. Reg December 21, 2010 at 10:34 am #

    Not impressed, and frankly, highly offended.

    No doubt the target demographic is young males, the most likely group to make poor decisions around drinking and driving, and so the advertisers, I presume, created an ad that uses barely-concealed homophobia to play on people’s fears of what “life in jail must be like.” The prisoners (whether real or actors is moot) were all portrayed as slightly ‘off’ or mentally disturbed which, while potentially true of some, only exacerbates and perpetuates the classic “Hollywood” notion that homosexual = crazy/unbalanced/unwell, and of course, evil. There was a time (that has been even recorded in a documentary called “The Celluloid Closet”) when nearly all characters in movies that were gay, or were suggestive of being gay, were portrayed as either suicidal, homicidal, mentally unstable and/or simply social/sexual outcasts. For me, this ad plays on that classic (and, I would have hoped, long-since debunked and abandoned, but clearly not…) approach to “homosexual panic”. Shocked and offended? You bet.

    I even tried looking at this ad without those filters on, to see if I was being overly sensitive or wearing too-biased lenses or something. Rightly or wrongly, I still came up feeling upset. The kicker? I tried to empathize with the prisoners, i.e. what were they asked to elicit the responses they gave? While I don’t know if they were real criminals, and certainly if they are I can hardly know what they were convicted for or excuse their crimes, but I still was left with the feeling that they were somehow ‘used’ for this ad.

    Lastly, I really can’t believe that someone who has been drinking would conjure up a fear of this possible end state (i.e. jail / sexual and/or physical abuse) as their deterrent, so I think the ad is ultimately ineffective.

    Thanks for sharing this Doug — thought-provoking, even if it boiled my blood.

  4. dougbrowncreative December 21, 2010 at 11:17 am #

    Reg, while I appreciate your passionate response, I wonder if the lens you are viewing the spot through has narrowed your focus a bit too far. I certainly agree that this ad offends many people. The few who aren’t offended will likely appreciate the notion of throwing prisoners into shark tanks as well.

    But my point is that prison sex really isn’t gay sex. There are no other options. It’s the only available sex. In this case, it doesn’t sound like sex at all but violence. Violent people are twisted people.

    I don’t want to be insensitive to the grief this ad gave you, just another perspective. Thanks for the honest comment.

  5. Reg December 21, 2010 at 12:17 pm #

    Point well taken Doug. Leaving sexuality aside, however, the ad still does not present a compelling (or appropriate or even logical, in my mind) deterrent for drinking and driving. Shock value? Sure. Effective? I doubt it.

    Related to my belief that the ad is ineffective: do drunk drivers in South Africa (and by extrapolation the rest of at least the developed world) really get thrown in prison with (what appears to be) the most hardened and violent of criminals? And for long enough to end up ‘damaged’ by whatever those on the inside end up doing to/with them? I certainly am not making a case for drunk driving (especially when it ends in anyone’s death) as being unworthy of criminal charges or jail time, but it just doesn’t seem plausible, in the context of the ad, that a drunk driving conviction will see you end up in that part of the prison system where this sort of behaviour occurs, or at least for the length of time suggested.

    Put a different way, is it justified to offend some or many in order to reach a targeted few? In this case, I think not, particularly because I don’t even think the logic or the message would deter the target audience.

  6. dougbrowncreative December 21, 2010 at 2:21 pm #

    Reg you’re right. As Shane noted above, the ad had nothing at all to do with drinking and driving, You could be threatening people for all manner of crimes, from tax evasion to petty theft to possession of child pornography to jaywalking.

  7. Amy December 22, 2010 at 7:54 am #

    This ad did deterr me from drinking and driving if I ever find myself in South Africa. In the US you get thrown in a “drunk tank” and usually can make bail in 12 hours or so.
    What is interesting about this ad, is that it makes the drunk driver the victim. It’s telling you that if you get arrested for drunk driving you will get thrown in jail and bodily harm of some sort will happen. However, in a lot of cases, the drunk driver is the one doing the harm either by endangering passengers or other drivers. This ad is zeroing in on the fear of personal harm, rather than the fear of doing harm to others. However, I believe that showing a body on a slab with “drunk driver” written on the toe tag would be more effective than this “prison rape” ad. This ad would get laughed at in the US.

  8. dougbrowncreative December 22, 2010 at 8:15 am #

    I like your logic Amy. I agree that the ad would get laughed at in the US, but I think it would be nervous laughter…

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